Updated: Jan 25, 2019
"...come up onto your finger tips and feel yourself sucking the nectar from mother earth through your fingers ..." ... hang on ... what did she just say? what does that actually mean ?
This is me and my mind having a chit chat as we follow along a... so far awesome yoga video enjoying a spot of personal practice ... then all of a sudden my mind is off imagining sticky nectar oozing out of the pores of a smiling mother earth ...talk about remaining present in the moment !
Ok, so we all get carried away from time to time and that made me think about some of the things I may say in class that could sound a little obscure, especially for people who may be new to yoga.
I do try my best to keep my classes as close to normal modern speak as possible for two reasons : #1 I am not a fan of fluffy speak and extreme visualisations myself, #2 I want practice to help people in a real practical way , so no unicorns and no fluff or nectar I'm afraid...
However I do from time to time use phrases that may need a little interpreting ... enjoy !
Ground your feet : this is a super common queue and it essentially reminds us to ground ourselves before we do anything else. Our feet support the whole body and they are the base of standing poses , their foundations so we need to ensure they are positioned correctly and that we keep coming back to them through the practice. The best way to feel grounded is to start by activating the feet through massaging the soles with a massage ball or simply with your hands and fingers. There is no right or wrong here, just sit on the ground or a chair and massage at will. After you have massaged the first foot take a moment to notice the difference with the other foot and then move to it. This practice will make you aware of tight/sore spots that may be influencing the way you stand. Next stand up and bring your feet as close as you can , if you cannot bring your feet together put a block between them. Lift all the toes at once and ground the roots of your toes, spread your toes wide and then release them to the ground pretending to grab the mat, feel your arches lift. Relax the toes but keep some of the lifting at the arch and distribute the wight between the balls of the feet and the heels. Now imagine rooting into the ground with your feet as the crown of your head moves up towards the sky/ceiling.This is also known as Pada Bandha ( the feet lock). This is very useful when working on standing poses and balance poses.
Bring your navel to your spine: aka the uddiyana bandha ( the abdominal lock) , this instruction is given often and it's here to remind you of being present at the core of your body. Very often we stand or lie on the floor and let all tone from the abdominal muscles fade away, this in turn puts pressure on the lower back and with time contributes to develop patterns that can lead to lower back issues and shortening of the abdominal muscles.
Unless you are working on deepening your breath, it may be helpful to remember to keep tone in your core by drawing your belly button in towards the front of the spine ( especially on the exhale). This instruction is often heard when working on standing poses to highlight spine elongation and during inversions and arm balances , without uddiyana bandha there is no lift.
Look at your third eye : ok this one is a weird one, last time I looked I only had 2 eyes however the yogis believed that we have what we would call a sixth sense, an ability to see beyond appearances and this ability resides on the site of our Ajna Chakra , the sixth centre of energy connected to our intuition. This instruction is often used during meditation. When your eyes are closed it becomes difficult to keep the eyes from wondering and so giving them something to focus on can help calm the mind and settle. The third eye is between your eyebrows , combine this internal gazing technique with a simple mantra to keep you focused during meditation. I really like the following : " I breath in ( as I'm breathing in), I breath out ( as I am breathing out)" and that is it. Keep it simple !
Go through your vinyasa : this is often tricky for beginners who may not be familiar with the term. Vinyasa means arranged in a special way and it refers to any sequence where we link two or more poses with the use of the breath. A common vinyasa is the cat-cow warm up where we inhale to cow and exhale to cat. I often instruct to go through the vinyasa when we are working through sunsalutations (see this video to know what that is if you do not know).
I specifically say YOUR vinyasa as each one of us can practice this transition flow in different ways . If you have just started practicing you may want to bring your knees to the ground from downdog and do two cat cow flows followed by downdog (or even childpose).
If you have been practicing for a while or you have good upper body strenght hen you can move to plank and then slowly down to the ground , take a cobra and then back to downdog via table top position.
As your upper body strenght increases you can move to a couple of other variations which include knees chest chin to cobra or chuttaranga to uppward facing dog . Check out this video :
Go inward : I often invite you to let go of our natural outward looking nature and connect to your inward observer. This is very useful when we are practicing switching the autopilot off and gliding through practice being fully present and aware of all the subtleties of our physical, mental and emotional being. You may be in warrior one on your mat ( I can see your body is there) , but can you feel every cell of your body take the pose, can you feel the breath moving through your body helping you going deeper or softening into the pose? Where is your mind ? Going inward is what makes Yoga different from the other physical disciplines that resemble yoga in its performance, it is more than simple concentration, it is forgetting for a moment that you are your body and that you are your mind and know that you are more than just that , that you are connected to something much bigger ... this brings me to the last of these yoga speak phrases
Namaste : we always close the practice with this word, what does it actually mean? Why do we say it? The word in itself is used to express gratitude or to greet someone. It comes form Sanskrit Namah+te , namah is a verb that means to adore, to venerate and te means you. So "I salute the divinity in you" is a close literal translation.
My favourite explanation is : I see the light in you and it is the same light that is in me and together we are one.
Come and find out more about these and other cues to any of my classes, see you on the mat .
love and light